Tuesday 23 April 2024

The Life of Humphrey Chetham

The following article is reproduced from 'The Anniversary of Humphrey Chetham at Turton 1628 - 1978' published by the Borough of Blackburn Recreation Department .

Humphrey Chetham
Humphrey Chetham

The most well known Cheetham of the present day is probably Cheetham Hill in Manchester. There is little doubt that it was the Cheetham area of Manchester that gave the family of Humphrey Chetham its surname. Today Humphrey Chetham. is remembered through various institutions that bear his name: Chetham's Library, Chetham's Hospital, Chetham's School of Music and the Chetham Society. He was an important man in Manchester in his time.

Born in 1580 at Crumpsall Hall, not far from Cheetham Hill, he received his education at Manchester Grammar School. At the age of seventeen he was apprenticed to a Manchester linen-draper for a period of seven years in which he was expected not to "depart from his master's service either by night or day".

In return the linen-draper agreed to train him in the trade, find him "honest meat and drynke, clothe and lodgyng, hossen, shoes, lynen & woollen, meet and convenient for his estate and degree during the said term" and to pay him four pence a year.

When his apprenticeship came to an end Humphrey joined his elder brother in the trade. Manchester Cottons (in those days the name of a wool), Fustians, Black Flanders Serge and Black Turkey Gogram were his stock in trade. While his brother managed the London side of the business, Humphrey took charge in Manchester.

But it was money-lending that earned Humphrey his real wealth. He lent money at interest to old Manchester families that had fallen upon hard times, and there were occasions when he would take over their estate.

The Byrons, for instance, of Clayton Hall in Droylsden (the ancestors of Lord Byron, the poet), found themselves in this situation in 1621, and the Chethams (Humphrey and his brother) acquired their home, a spacious building with a private chapel, square courtyards, a gatehouse, with a moat around the outside, and a deer-park.

Seven years later it was the Orrells of Turton Tower who found themselves in debt, and Turton Tower fell into Humphrey Chetham's hands. On 5th August, 1628, an agreement was drawn up for the sale for £4,000 of the "manor and lordship of Turton, with the capital messauge called Turton Tower, the demesne lands, water corn mill, and all the lands of William Orrell, Esquire, situate in Turton, with rents, etc., along with a private chapel or aisle appurtenant to Turton, situate on the north side of Bolton Church".

Land forming part of the property was then being farmed by sixty tenants. We are told "700 acres of land were worth £190 p.a. That the woods, chiefly plane and ash within the manor, were worth £700, also boons and rents and 420 more acres".

Alice, William Orrell's sister-in-law (the widow of his elder brother) took a bit of persuading to sign her part of the document. At last her brother, Roger Bradshaigh of Haigh Hall, near Wigan, wrote to Humphrey in March, 1629

"that his sister Mrs. Orrell, was ready to execute the deed of sale and would meet Mr. Chetham at his (Mr. Bradshaigh's) cousin Dounes' at Wardley on the following Thursday for that purpose, and if there should be any defect on his sister Orrell's part, he would go with Mr. Chetham to Turton on the same night in order that it might be perfected".

In 1635 Humphrey served as Sheriff of Lancashire, with the responsibility for collecting in the county the infamous Ship Money. At Preston, he tells us, "I mett with nothing for the first 2 daies but complaints and loude exclamations against unjust and unequall taxations". But he raised the money. In fact he did more. A few years later he got into trouble for raising not only Ship Money but £50 besides to cover his expenses.

It is from his service as Sheriff that we learn the true pronunciation of his name. The business of having a coat-of-arms cropped up, and Henry St. George (the Norroy King of Arms) was contacted. Before 1635 Humphrey had used five different spellings of his name, but after this date only one. According to St. George the name should have two 'h's and one 'e', the 'e' being long (as in Cheetham).

As a money lender Humphrey's wealth grew and grew, especially in the hard times experienced by the aristocracy of the Manchester region at the time of the Civil War. He acquired Ordsall Hall in Salford from the Radcliffes. Wythenshawe Hall almost came into his possession. A loan at high interest was owed him by Sir Edward Mosley, of Hough End. And by 1649 a loan for £600 originally made in 1620 to landowners of Ainsworth, Tonge & Breightmet had risen, with interest, to a debt of £1,958, so high that the debtors resorted to legal threats.

Humphrey's role as a shrewd financier tempted the authorities to appoint him in 1640 as Lancashire's High Collector of the royal subsidies voted to the King by Parliament and from this post he was to step naturally into the position as treasurer for the Parliamentarians in the county. But he retained many friendships among the Royalists.

Alice Orrell, the widow who had resisted the sale of her late husband's property at Turton to Humphrey in 1628, although a Roman Catholic and therefore suspect, was allowed to stay at Turton Tower as her home until her death in 1648;

And in 1648 we see this letter addressed to Humphrey by another Roman Catholic, Christopher Anderton of Lostock Tower near Bolton:

"Good Mr. Chetham

After my heartie respects remembered may it please you to hear my suit on behalf of the widow of James Langeworth and her children who live near Turton. Her husband was slain in the late Siege and they are in great adversitye and if some reliefe might be had from the Committee by your means it would be verie seasonable. I trust to your public heart and notable virtues and commend the poor widow and her children to you. It gladdened me to hear that you had recovered from your sore sickness, and this bearer brings you a hare and two snipes

from your loving friend,
Christ Anderton."
Lostock this
17 March, '43.

It was in the autumn of that year that the decision was made to appoint Humphrey as Parliament's treasurer or Receiver Generall for Lancashire. The following January General Thomas Fairfax signed an order to raise funds -

"Whereas the Army of the Enemy are very potent, cruel and violent, and even ready to assaile and devoure us and our neighbours... that an assessment of five hundred pounds by the weeke ... be made and levied... And that the moneys so levied be from tyme to tyme collected and paid monthly unto Humphrey Chetham of Turton, Esquire, appointed Treasurer for that purpose, which Treasurer is to pay the same over immediately to the Treasurer of the Army.."

A month later Humphrey arranged for the payment of £56-6s-6d for gunpowder and match sent to Fairfax at the siege of Nantwich.

No doubt Lancashire's Parliamentarians believed they had done well to select Humphrey as treasurer. He was wealthy, a careful book-keeper and shrewd. Never- the-less he was too canny to pay out money that was not in the coffers and this certainly caused distress to the commanders.

Even in the endowment of his charities he showed an eye for business. For example, in his project to house and educate poor children from Turton, Bolton, Droylsden and Manchester, he had set his eyes on the old college building which for a hundred years had been the town residence of the Earls of Derby.

In 1649, needless to say, Lord Derby was in a poor position to negotiate for his property in Manchester. Humphrey wrote to Lord Derby's agent -

"...considering the uselessness of it to his Lordshipp in the times of peace, much more being sequestrated, a great parte of it spoyld and ruin'd and become like a dunghill, as (it may be) you know, soe that it will never be fit for his Lordship's use, without as much cost in repairing it as would build a more commodious House. Yt hath been a prison a longe tyme ffor as many prisoners as yt would hould, as thereby is become most noysome and ffylthey and by making of gunne powther some of the roof is blown of and some is ffalne of, so as thereby yt is become unhabitable, and the tymber being rotten ffrom of slate - will require great cost to make useful....."

In time this building did become the home of Chetham's Library and Chetham's Hospital (the forebear of the present Chetham's School of Music).

By 1649 he was a sick man and needed assistance to be helped on to his horse. Remember he was now almost seventy years old. He would spend most of his time at home in Clayton Hall. In 1651 he drew up his final will which paved the way for the future Hospital, or as we should now call it, School. The children, from Turton, Bolton, Droylsden and Manchester -

"... shall bee children of honest, industrious and painfull parents, and not of wandering or idle beggars or roages, nor that any of the said boyes shalbee bastards nor such as are lame, infirme, or diseased att the time of theire election."

Turton Tower and Clayton Hall he bequeathed to his favourite nephew, George, who had already been allowed possession of the Tower since Alice Orrell's death in 1648. George's decendants were to be the owners of the Tower for the next couple of hundred years.

Humphrey's other major bequest was for the purchase of books. The major part was for the creation of Chetham's Library, but other less well known libraries were presented to the parish churches of Manchester and Bolton, and the chapels of Walmsley, Gorton and Turton, of which the last two survive.

Now, 325 years after Humphrey's death, thanks to the kindness of the church authorities, the library bequeathed by Humphrey to Turton can be seen today in Turton Tower.

(Information derived from the Life of Humphrey Chetham, vols. 49 & 50 of the Chetham Society, 1902-3).

The Turton Book Case
Bequeathed to Turton in Chetham's Will